Tag Archives: lafayette

Go For the Food: Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit

To New Yorkers like me, going to Coney means hopping on a Coney Island-bound subway train to an amusement park at the beach. But on a trip to Detroit, I learned that “coney” means something entirely different.

In Michigan and a few other places, coney is a generic term for hot dogs topped with onions, mustard and chili.

Brooklyn’s Coney Island has its own hot dog culture thanks to Nathan’s Famous, which has been selling dogs there since 1916. But chili is not a typical New York topping for a dog — we mostly stick to mustard and sauerkraut. Still, I try to sample local cuisine wherever I go, and in Detroit that means trying coneys sold by two long-time rivals: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.

The stores stand side by side on West Lafayette Boulevard in Detroit’s downtown, which is in the very early stages of attempting a revival following finalization of the city’s bankruptcy. Streets are clean, there’s abundant private security, and cheap real estate is attracting investors and entrepreneurs. Lafayette and American are near many downtown attractions, including the famous sculpture of boxer Joe Louis’ fist, the historic Westin Book Cadillac hotel, the Riverwalk and Campus Martius Park. It felt perfectly safe as I arrived for my taste-test, and yet, my visit was marked by a series of memorable moments that you wouldn’t expect at, say, a suburban diner or trendy cafe.

For starters, in the foodie world, photographing your meal is so routine that it generally attracts no attention. But when I began photographing my coney at Lafayette, I got a long, bewildered look from the pair of somewhat scruffy gentlemen seated next to me. And when I asked our server for a receipt, he looked at me blankly, then tossed his notepad on the table, muttering, “Write it yourself.” Believe it or not, this all added to the charm of the place.

The dog itself at Lafayette was a surprise to my palate. The flavors were stronger than I’d expected — quite a bite to the onions and chili. On the advice of my dining companion, a 20-something Michigan native who recently moved to Detroit, I also had a Vernors ginger ale, a brand that originated in Detroit in the 19th century. It was fantastic, better than big-name brands and artisanal sodas. We also shared some good french fries.

But boy, was I full when we went to American for the second dog. Our near-dread at another round must have been apparent from our expressions, because the woman who came to take our order took one look at us and said something like, “You’re doing a comparison, aren’t you?”

We nodded guiltily.

“You should have come here first!” she scolded, then added: “Actually it’s good you came here second. You’ll leave with a better taste in your mouth!”

Turns out this wasn’t just a waitress — this was American’s co-owner, the brassy and dynamic Grace Keros, whose grandfather, a Greek immigrant, began selling hot dogs from a pushcart on the site in 1917. His brother opened Lafayette next door in 1924, but Lafayette is no longer owned by the family, and Keros wants it known that the dogs and chili are completely different.

Everyone I met in Detroit seemed to agree, saying that by tradition, locals only ever go to one place or the other. But in the name of investigative journalism, I had to try both, even though I wasn’t really psyched for the second round. But a funny thing happened on the way to my stomach: I liked it. To my palate, American’s coney had a slightly milder flavor, a bit more like the dogs I’m used to, dare I say, at the REAL Coney Island in Brooklyn. Not that Lafayette was bad, mind you — and as a non-local, I’m not pledging lifelong allegiance to either place. I later learned that Anthony Bourdain visited Detroit in 2013 and declared the best coneys to be at a spot called Duly’s, but there was no way I could handle a third.

When I later circled back to take exterior photos, a man was pacing back and forth outside both stores, raging incoherently at the skies. I dared not enrage him further by whipping out my camera, so I had to come back a third time for pictures. It seemed like a fitting coda to an only-in-Detroit adventure.

If You Go…

AMERICAN CONEY ISLAND: 114 W. Lafayette, Detroit; 313-961-7758, http://www.americanconeyisland.com/home.htm .

LAFAYETTE CONEY ISLAND: 118 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-964-8198.

Complaints over rainbow flag may lead to new limits in south Louisiana

A south Louisiana official says he’s drafting a proposal to limit the types of flags that can be flown on government property after hearing complaints about a gay Pride flag being hoisted temporarily in a local park.

Andy Naquin, a Lafayette City-Parish councilman, told The Daily Advertiser that he was contacted by a military veteran who was offended that a gay Pride group flew the rainbow flag June 30 in Girard Park, which is Lafayette Consolidated Government property.

“I had to agree with him,” Naquin said. “Government flag poles really should be meant to fly only government flags.”

Naquin said he’s working with the city-parish attorney on drafting an ordinance, but did not immediately discuss the matter with other council members. He said he expects the ordinance would allow the flying of only American, Louisiana and Acadian/Lafayette Consolidated Government flags, and possibly Mardi Gras flags, on government property.

Korean War veteran Ray Green, who complained to Naquin, said he learned about the raising of the rainbow flag in the public park after a photograph and article appeared in The Daily Advertiser. Green he does not believe the flag should be flown on government property.

“I did not go overseas and fight for our country so that we could come back and be subject to something like that,” Green said Friday. “Several of us (veterans) feel that the flying of this flag is a poke in the eye of a way of life.”

Amanda Kelley, president of the Acadiana OUTspoken Alliance said the proposed restriction “seems like a violation of freedom of speech.”

Kelley said the rainbow flag was meant to mark June as Pride month. She said it also was to celebrate the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidates a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving about 1,100 benefits that are otherwise available to married couples.

“It wasn’t intended to insult or hurt anyone,” Kelley said.

Green said it is gay pride group’s right to fly the flag, but not on government property. He asked what would happen if someone wanted to fly a Ku Klux Klan flag at Girard Park.

Participants of the June 30 gathering did not remove an American flag to hoist the rainbow flag. Kelley said Acadiana OUTspoken’s membership includes veterans.

“We fought for this country, too,” she said. “It was in no way meant to be disrespectful.”

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